Eq: Total Market

2023 was an unprecedented year for interest rate volatility. The yield on the 10-year reached a low of 3.3% in April following the regional banking crisis, peaked at 5% in October, and finished the year at 3.8% following a series of supportive inflation data.

Given that inflation has declined to 3.1% which is nearly 70% less than the highest levels of 2021, the odds of a soft landing continue to rise. Currently, the Fed’s plan is to loosen financial conditions by lowering the Fed funds rate, while it continues to shrink its balance sheet.

Part of the plan should also be to reduce bond market volatility especially since it has doubled over the past 2 years and remains elevated relative to norms. In some respects, elevated bond market volatility is a consequence of the Fed’s battle against inflation. Now, it must also effectively deal with this issue before it becomes more substantial. 

Therefore, it’s likely that the Fed will cut back on its quantitative tightening program in which $95 billion worth of maturing bonds are not reinvested. Already, these efforts have succeeded in shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet by 15%. Another reason that curbing bond market volatility is necessary is that the Treasury will be auctioning off large amounts of notes and bills in the coming months. 


Finsum: The Federal Reserve has made significant strides in turning inflation lower. Now, it must take steps to reduce bond market volatility.

 

Morningstar Investment Management (MIM) shared its 2024 outlook for financial markets. It’s particularly bullish on fixed income due to attractive valuations, generous yields, and falling inflation. Within the asset class, it likes developed market bonds, emerging market debt, and inflation-linked fixed income. 

 

While it sees more upside for long-duration bonds, it sees value in shorter-duration bonds for more risk-averse investors especially given that geopolitical risk will likely remain elevated in 2024. However, the yield curve is inverted which is typically a leading indicator that rates, and inflation are going to trend lower. Both developments would be more favorable for longer-duration fixed income. 

 

It also sees bonds returning to their traditional role of dampening portfolio volatility by providing a hedge against equities and meaningful income to investors. Due to the rise in yields, investors no longer have to take on risks in search of income as they often did during the previous decade. 

 

In regard to corporate bonds, it sees downside risk in the event of a recession as they are ‘priced for a slowdown, not a recession’. MIM is also concerned that high rates could erode company fundamentals especially in an environment of declining revenue and earnings. Thus, it recommends keeping a close eye on credit spreads and high yield bonds


Finsum: Morningstar Investment Management shared its 2024 outlook. It’s bullish on fixed income, specifically long-duration government bonds but more cautious on corporate debt given the risk of an economic slowdown turning into a recession.

 

Choosing the right broker-dealer is a pivotal decision for any advisor, and while the three P's — payouts, products, and platforms — often take precedence, overlooking cultural fit could be a critical mistake. Cultural fit transcends the more tangible aspects of a broker-dealer, offering a sustainable competitive edge that cannot be easily replicated.

 

Compensation differences and the allure of superior products or platforms might seem enticing initially, but they tend to level out over time. Culture, on the other hand, is ingrained. It's the ethos of the company, the collective behavior, and the beliefs that characterize the organization. According to James L. Heskett, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, culture is not just a peripheral factor; it can "account for 20-30% of the differential in corporate performance when compared with 'culturally unremarkable' competitors."

 

The disruption caused by moving broker-dealers can be significant. It affects relationships, routines, and can even impact client perception. That's why ensuring a broker-dealer aligns with your values, work style, and vision for client service is vital. A broker-dealer with a compatible culture can provide a supportive environment, fostering growth and satisfaction that pure financial incentives cannot match.


Finsum: Ensuring cultural fit is essential when selecting a broker-dealer for advisors— it's the strategic edge that impacts performance and satisfaction.

 

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